Fact checking Ohio in the first presidential debate in Cleveland

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President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, right, with moderator Chris Wallace, center, of Fox News during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in Cleveland Tuesday night, yelling over each other and moderator Chris Wallace.

The candidates are locked in a tight battle for Ohio, which Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016, with most polls saying the race is too close to call. On Tuesday, the Cook Political Report moved Ohio from leans Republican to a toss-up, noting Trump was underperforming among white, non-college voters compared to 2016.

The Enquirer breaks down what they got right and what they got wrong about Ohio. 

Did Trump save Big Ten football?

The claim: “I brought back Big Ten football,” Trump said. “The people of Ohio are very proud of me.”

The facts: Trump was vocal about reviving Big Ten football after the conference canceled the fall season in August. Ohio State University is one of 14 conference members, along with state schools in key election states Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

He called Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and offered to help with testing, according to a White House transcript of the call. Warren told The Washington Post the conference was paying to test athletes.

An unnamed Big Ten university president told NBC News the return had nothing to do with the president’s push.

“President Trump had nothing to do with our decision and did not impact the deliberations,” said the university president, who asked not to be identified. “In fact, when his name came up, it was a negative, because no one wanted this to be political.”

Did Ohio have the best year? 

Claim: “Ohio had the best year it’s ever had last year,” Trump said. 

The facts: Ohio didn’t have its best year ever in 2019. Ohio added just 27,300 jobs in 2019, the smallest gain since 2009 when the state lost jobs during the Great Recession, according to an Ohio Department of Job and Family Services news release from January.

Employment in goods-producing industries decreased by 10,800, according to that release. Employment in manufacturing decreased by 1,700 jobs.

Liberal think tank Policy Matters reported that the final, revised number was even worse: new 18,300 jobs in 2019. Conservative Buckeye Institute described the year with the news release titled: “Despite slow growth in 2019, Ohio’s job market trends in positive direction.”

From the end of 2016 through 2019, Ohio manufacturing jobs were up just 2.1% – that’s less than 15,000 new positions in 36 months. That’s also just a 3% share of the national gain for the No. 3 state in factory employment.

Did Biden save Ohio’s auto industry?

Claim: “I’m the guy that brought back auto manufacturing,” Biden said. “I was asked to bring back Chrysler and General Motors, and we brought them back right here in the state of Ohio and Michigan. He blew it. They’re gone.”

The facts: Biden alone didn’t bring back the auto industry and several plants are still operating in Ohio.

Biden is referring to the auto bailout that was finalized under President Barack Obama’s administration. In late 2008, General Motors and Chrysler were facing bankruptcy amid the devastating recession.

In response, U.S. leaders approved $80 billion in assistance, mostly to GM and Chrysler, by June 2009. But that work began under Republican President George W. Bush. He announced a $17.4 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler before Obama and Biden took office.

The bailout has its critics but was largely deemed a success. Since then, both companies have continued to operate in Ohio.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has three plants in Toledo. General Motors has six facilities in Ohio including Toledo Transmission and the Cincinnati Parts Distribution Center in West Chester.

Notably, Lordstown Assembly shuttered in March 2019. At the time, the plant outside of Youngstown employed about 1,700 hourly employees. In its heyday in the early 1990s, GM employed 10,600 at that location. 

The Lordstown plant sat idle for several months before startup Lordstown Motors purchased it to build the Endurance electric pickup in November 2019. That was too late for many workers who took other GM jobs or found work elsewhere.

Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns has plans to hire 600 workers in 2021 to build the first 20,000 Endurance pickups, according to the Detroit Free Press. That’s good news for the local economy but still far short of the number of workers that the plant used to employ.

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